In general, when we think of taxidermy we automatically tend to think of men who like to hunt and mount their catches on their walls as trophies. In recent decades, taxidermy has fallen out of favour as it has garnered a reputation for being somewhat old fashioned and antiquated. However, a new generation of designers have jumped on the taxidermy bandwagon and the practice has undergone a renaissance and is really pushing the boundaries of art, design and decoration further than we could have ever imagined.
Kate Clark is a sculptor who lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. Her work is a series of narrative portraits that she constructs by creating and then transforming taxidermied animals. She explores the tension between personal and mythical realms by creating sculpture that synthesizes the human face and the body of wild animals. Her work is both shocking and repellent as we recognize ourselves in the sculptures and can relate to the emotion on their faces.
Lisa Black is a Sculptor, Jeweller and Artist based in Auckland, New Zealand. Her love of animals and their form, combined with a preoccupation with an imminent future where technology and biology are intimately combined, led her to create her ongoing series of modified animals. Her work showcases animals with carefully integrated mechanical additions and reflects our technological progression and its potential impact on the natural world.
Questioning the possibilities that artificial evolution holds for the future, the sculptures by Enrique Gomez de Molina are fascinating, humourous and unsettling all at the same time. Combining different parts of dead animals, de Molina creates surreal hybrid creatures that he hopes will help raise awareness of the dangers that many species are faced with today, such as deforestation, over development, genetic engineering and human intervention.
Influenced by both story-telling and natural history, Artist Kelly McCallum uses Victorian taxidermy as well as insects and precious metals to create her unusual and curious collection of sculptures. Her work explores themes of death, decadence, decay and rebirth.
Crossing the boundaries of art and design, Alex Randall creates bespoke and one-off lighting installations for hotels, bars, restaurants and private residences all over the world. Rather than the eerie sense of Gothicism that is usually associated with taxidermy, Randall introduces a sense of fun and gives a playful new meaning to the aristocratic trophy tradition.
Polly Morgan is a taxidermist who uses animals that have died as a result of road accidents or pets that have died from natural or unexpected causes and have then been donated by their owners. Rather than mimicking the natural habitats of the animals her intention is to place them in less expected scenery in order to encourage us to look at the animals differently as if for the first time.
However, if these weird and wonderful creations seem more suited to an art gallery than to your home, the following taxidermy -inspired products may be a little more tame and suitable. After all not everyone likes the idea of having an actual dead animal in their home.
Artist and sculptor Shauna Richardson has a unique body of work that she calls ‘crochetdermy’. She uses crochet to sculpt realistic life-size animals that bear a remarkable resemblance to traditional taxidermy except that no dead animals are involved of course.
Domestic Trophies is the range of work that designer Rachel Denny has become best known for. The dear heads are made in Denny’s studio and covered in cozy cashmere cable knit woolens. Her interest lies in the potential of the materials she uses and how they can be manipulated in unexpected ways.
Frederique Morrel makes one-of-a-kind products using vintage tapestries. The company is comprised of Frederique Morrel and Aaron Levin who met at a conceptual art exhibition in Paris in the 1980’s. The Passe-Murrailes collection may bear a strong resemblance to hunting trophies but the creators insist that they are living creatures that are like friends of the family who have unexpectedly poked their heads through the wall to deliver their personal stories to us.
Donya Coward is an artist who creates contemporary sculptural artwork by combining crochet and knitting with reclaimed materials and then transforming them into vibrant and dramatic sculptures. Dogs and birds feature quite heavily in her textile taxidermy collection.
Available from Anthropologie is the Savannah Story Bust collection features an elephant, giraffe, rhino and zebra. Layers of repurposed cement bags are covered with vintage French book pages to create these attractive paper mache animal heads.
Along the same lines is Cardboard Safari, a company that creates unique cardboard home decor products including a range of animal trophies made from recycled cardboard.
Rice also do a paper mache deer head that is available in three assorted colours to brighten up any wall upon which it hangs.
This series entitled Handmade Wilderness-The Paper Deer Head Project, is an exploration into the beauty and authenticity of nature by Jennifer Khoshbin. It is her artful take on traditional hunting whereby she uses paper and resin to create a decorative dear head.
And finally for those of you who aren’t really feeling the knitted, crocheted, paper mached deer heads, what about little trophies made from lego? That’s right, you heard me…lego. That is exactly what David Cole has come up with. Teeny weeny little palm-sized animal trophies lovingly crafted from individual lego bricks.
So after that whirlwind exploration of the renaissance of taxidermy in all it’s guises and the offshoot of taxidermy-inspired artwork, what do you think? Is there anything here that you particularly like or dislike? Or has this changed your opinion of taxidermy in any way? We’d love to hear your thoughts so as usual please leave a comment and get the discussion started.